The fate of Bob Winter’s library

Esotouric’s Richard Schave learned how to give a bus tour on Bob Winter’s “L.A. on a 6-Pack” Occidental College excursions in the 1980s

When the announcement circulated yesterday about a one-day estate sale at the longtime Pasadena home of architectural historian Bob Winter, hearts dropped into stomachs all across the Southland.

It was widely known that Bob intended to leave his Arts & Crafts bungalow, built by the great Pasadena tile maker Ernest Batchelder and liberally festooned with rare tile, glass and metalwork, to his beloved Occidental College.

Less widely known was what the college planned to do with the National Register landmark. It is in no danger of being demolished; the facade and principal downstairs rooms are protected by a preservation easement. But would Oxy undertake the considerable expense of maintaining the property just as it was, as an off-campus lecture hall or visiting scholar’s residence? Or would they put it on the market?

The estate sale announcement settled that question firmly: Bob Winter’s home would be sold.

Scrolling through photos on the estate sale listing, it was obvious that the library had been thinned. Still there were hundreds of books laid out in banker’s boxes. Would the reference library that informed such iconic Southern California histories as The California Bungalow, California Design 1910, Batchelder Tilemaker and A Guide to Architecture in Los Angeles and Southern California be dispersed?

The answer is “absolutely not!”

We reached out to our friends at Occidental College and got the skinny from Dale Ann Stieber, Special Collections Librarian and College Archivist:

“Three faculty members and two librarians reviewed Dr. Winter’s books and selected about 250-300 items for subject matter of regional value (arts & crafts and California regional arts, architecture and culture) for Occidental College Library.

Dr. Winter’s personal and professional papers, memorabilia, awards, and research files/books were reviewed, packed and will be coming to Special Collections. Ann Scheid, USC architectural librarian and a close friend and colleague of Dr. Winter, is assisting us in the processing of these materials for future researcher access. I should add that a decade ago Dr. Winter transferred his comprehensive 35mm slide collection on Southern California architecture to Occidental College; it has been fully digitized, described and available in ArtStor.”

And that’s a bit of happy news on the sad occasion of the end of our friend Bob Winter’s life in his lovely bungalow. May this place attract a fine new steward and be a joyous and creative home for many years to come.

As for us, we’re skipping the estate sale, and prefer to remember the house filled with Bob’s personality and treasures. Having learned how to give offbeat Los Angeles architecture and history tours directly from the master (including one of Batchelder’s Dutch Chocolate Shop), we’ll be deep in South LA on Saturday, exploring the sites that figure in Patty Hearst’s kidnapping and the SWAT raid that incinerated her SLA captors.

We don’t begrudge anyone who swings by the sale in search of a keepsake, but if you’d like to explore the city Bob loved, why not come along for the ride? There’s time for both, and Los Angeles is calling.

Oldest friends Jean Bruce Poole (senior curator and historic museum director, El Pueblo) and Bob Winter enjoy a sunbeam in his living room, Winter 2015

Above the Dutch Chocolate Shop, A Mysterious Los Angeles Time Capsule

History-loving Los Angeles, sit down: we’re about to blow your collective mind.

You know, of course, that behind a rolled down grate in the heart of Downtown’s Broadway Theater District is a magical 1914 space called the Dutch Chocolate Shop, containing the largest collection of unique Ernest Batchelder tile murals in the world. If you’ve taken our Lowdown on Downtown tour (it rolls this Saturday), you might have even been inside.

Dutch Chocolate Shop

But have you ever wondered if there is anything else of historical interest preserved within the walls of 217-219 West Sixth Street? More marvelous art tile perhaps, or remnants of the building’s long history as a health food restaurant and cafeteria?

Recently, we had the opportunity to explore the entire building, hoping to answer this nagging question. We took the marbled linoleum stairs, heading into the silent, dusty spaces above and below the Chocolate Shop.

stairs

step risers

The basement and middle floors proved to be spare lofts, long stripped of detail, with the exception of occasional patches of vintage wallpaper or stacks of old doors.

silver wall

wall paper

On the top floor, though, things got really interesting. While we didn’t find anything as spectacular as the Dutch Chocolate Shop, we discovered that the building contains another fascinating, and most unlikely, time capsule of old Los Angeles: a nearly intact alternative (read: quack) medical clinic that operated on this site, on and off, from 1939 through the mid-1960s.

Exit

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you: the Dr. A. W. von Lange Health Institute, dispensing the good doctor’s signature Vienna Drugless System, a cure for all that ails you.

LAT 1953 von Lange ad cropped

Through some miracle of inertia, the abandoned clinic has remained intact, nearly unaltered, for fifty years, used until recently as storage space. A bit of yellowed marketing material left behind explains something of what went on here.

vienna pamphlet front

“Why Are You Sick?” the pamphlet inquired, before listing a distressing litany of potential maladies: Anemia – Appendicitis – Asthma – Bronchial – Cardiac Disorders – Bladder Trouble – Boils – Bright’s Disease – Catarrh – Chronic Cough – Colds – Colitis – Constipation – Dizziness (and the beat goes on for three more columns of solid suffering).

The potential patient is urged to Call MAdison 6-0951 and schedule a 6-point examination: 1) chest and lung x-ray, 2) circulatory test, 3) blood pressure, temperature and pulse study, 4) bone and joint exam, 5) stomach and colon x-ray and 6) cardiograph.

graphic patients in heat pack

With all that data, Dr. von Lange would be prepared to offer his cure-all recommendation: The Vienna Super-Heat Pack, which as far as we can gather from the vague terminology of the pamphlet and period newspaper ads, was a tight and toasty two-hour towel wrap meant to non-surgically bind herniated ruptures and get the recipient’s intestines working at maximum velocity to flush toxins out their backside. Also on offer: colonic irrigations and spinal adjustments (von Lange styled himself a Doctor of Chiropractic). A return to health should quickly follow.

A sufferer might avail themselves of the free two-hour parking in the Alexandria Hotel lot, then drag their wretched carcass around the corner to the Finney Wilton Building, where in the early years of Dr. von Lange’s practice they could fortify themselves with a snack in the tiled health food restaurant on the ground floor. But no eggs! This binding substance was firmly forbidden those who sought the Viennese heat treatment.

Japanese wallpaper

If immediate relief was their goal, the elevator would deliver them upwards to a long hall, at the center of which a receptionist sat beneath a charming expanse of Japanese wallpaper.

Upon presenting their complaint(s), the patient would soon be ushered back to consult with the doctor, a handsome gentleman with an old world accent, bright eyes and very little hair.

von lange naturalization photo

If the situation required it, and why wouldn’t it, the patient might then continue down the hall to the Hydro-Therapy Department, turning right if a woman and left if a man.

Women's Hydro-Therapy door

Here were, and remain, twin spa facilities behind frosted glass doors, each comprised of three tiled stalls.

stalls

One contained a peculiar low sink/tub contraption that we presume was involved in the colonic irrigation treatments. A heavy gold lamé shower curtain still hanging in front of this stall lends a certain Old Hollywood glamour to the space.

tub

gold curtain

These clinical rooms are connected by a short hall with a tiny water closet, through which nursing staff might quickly attend to the Vienna Super-Heat Packed on either side of the wall.

WC

It is a strange and intimate space where time seems to have stood still as the city grew up around it. And just as it’s been our great pleasure to share the Dutch Chocolate Shop with curious urban seekers, we are delighted to (virtually) share its upstairs neighbor. Here are a few more photos.

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Having seen Dr. von Lange’s clinic, we wanted to know more, and began digging into a variety of archival sources. For all his years ministering to Southern California’s unwell, Dr. von Lange left a faint, but intriguing, impression on the public record. From period advertisements, legal filings and news reports, this is what we know.

vienna lax tm filing

In 1934, he trademarked a laxative called Vienna-Lax which had been produced in his own Vienna Laboratory since 1931. (There is evidence of a dismantled lab in the abandoned clinic.) In 1935, it was being distributed at the Best Drug Stores chain in Los Angeles, $2 for the family size bottle.

rejuventation LAT ad

By 1939, he was seeing patients above the Dutch Chocolate Shop, with a suggestive ad in the Los Angeles Times headed REJUVENATION… “We rid the body of all poisons. Youth returns in consequence.” The Vienna Super Heat Pack, one was to assume, would turn an old goat into a young buck again.

terpezone ad 1937 physical culture magazine

Soon, the newspaper ads reveal, he was experimenting with different quack medical devices. In 1940, someone suffering a cold, asthma, sinus or bronchitis could, for $2, receive an examination and single treatment of Terpezone, ozone-rich oxygen vapor that emerged from a sinister box with the cheery claim that it represented the “revitalizing air of the Alps.”

Oh, and he wasn’t really Dr. von Lange. When he arrived in New York in 1914, aged 33, it was as Adolf Tworkowski, though we’ll have to take his word for it. A Pole, he was born in Brody and had most recently lived in Lemberg. Most citizens of Brody were Jewish, but there’s no evidence that our man was a member of the tribe.

He will later claim to have two American-born children, Adolf Jr. (b. 1918, New York) and Irene (b. 1920, Ohio), although strangely neither one appears in census or other vital records, and their mother is apparently a ghost.

Around 1933, Tworkowski somehow becomes proprietor of a health clinic in Long Beach. The established Vienna Health Institute on Pine Avenue is renamed American-Vienna, and moves to a prominent storefront on Seaside, opposite the Municipal Auditorium. Using the more euphonious and suggestively regal name Prof. Von Lange, and claiming training in Vienna and Budapest, Tworkowski takes out numerous ads in the annual city directory to promote his bowel-focused healing arts. But almost immediately, our man is on the move. Our guess: his clinic was damaged in the terrible March 1933 earthquake.

1933 Long Beach city directory ad

In 1934, he seeks to formally change his name from Adolf Ladislaus Tworkowski to Adolf Walter von Lange. He already had a beautiful signature at the ready.

von lange signature

It will be as Dr. Von Lange that he establishes his professional life in Los Angeles, primarily in the clinic above the Dutch Chocolate Shop. He marries the widowed Evelyn McCarthy of Indiana and they will live together, apparently happily, in a fine English house on Rossmore.

116 N Rossmore sold

But it’s not an Esotouric blog post without some crime and a mystery. First, let’s flash back to 1930, when we find our friend Tworkowski working a long con on the ladies of the Ontario Women’s Clubhouse, selling $20 treatments along with a concoction that we suspect may have violated the provisions of the 18th Amendment.

medicine show bust

A quarter century later, von Lange is an upright citizen, when something frightening happens in the clinic. A man walks in, seeking a diagnosis. But in the course of his intake session, he pulls a gun on the doctor. Both von Lange and receptionist Mrs. Lillian Haldane are tied hand and foot with shoelaces. The robber then ransacks the clinic, searching for cash. He finds nothing and splits, and the victims free themselves and call police.

gunman headline

At the time of this incident, von Lange is 74. A lesser man might well have wound down his business interests and retired to prune the petunias. But ads for the clinic continue to appear through early 1964, and he remains on lists of medical practitioners for another few years after that.

In 1970, Evelyn dies in Los Angeles and her body is shipped back to Indiana for burial. But, like his putative children, von Lange himself vanishes from the record. We do not know when, or even if, he died.

But somewhat miraculously, the doctor’s WW2-era clinic remains at the ready above Sixth Street, needing just a fresh coat of paint and new lengths of rubber tubing to again be at the service of eager health seekers. It is one of the eeriest places we have ever visited, and just one more reminder that one can never fully know Los Angeles.

What does the future hold for this fascinating time capsule? Stay tuned, and we’ll be sure to let you know!

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For more weird stories of lost Los Angeles, take one of Kim Cooper’s Esotouric crime bus tours, or check out her novel about Raymond Chandler investigating the real 1920s Great Eleven cult, The Kept Girl.

 

 

Explore Ernest Batchelder’s Dutch Chocolate Shop in Lifelike 3-D

Craig Sauer adjusts his camera to capture the Dutch Chocolate Shop

Craig Sauer adjusts his camera to capture the Dutch Chocolate Shop

A couple of weeks ago, we trekked down into a trash filled drainage tunnel off the Los Angeles River with graffiti scholar Susan Phillips and 3-D photographer Craig Sauer to document a wordy folk art environment created by an obsessive 1940s-era hobo known only as JK.

Craig’s shoot turned out so well that we were eager for him to capture more of our favorite historic Los Angeles spaces in megapixels. And what better landmark to start with than the Dutch Chocolate Shop, Pasadena Arts & Crafts master Ernest Batchelder’s vaulted, tiled masterpiece?

Although we’ve hosted a number of tours and lectures in this fascinating space, it is currently closed to the public pending determination of its next use. But now, thanks to Matterport 3D Showcase technology, you can virtually explore the Dutch Chocolate Shop, and zoom in close to notice details in the tile murals that the naked eye might miss. We recommend listening to Brian Kaiser’s LAVA talk while you do.

What will be the next hidden Los Angeles landmark to get the 3-D treatment? Stay tuned!